The Royal Caribbean Circular Line has launched a legal action in Australia in an attempt to stop the victims of the White Island eruption in New Zealand from suing it in Miami, where it has its headquarters.
In a lawsuit in Miami, American couple Ivy and Paul Reed, who were badly burned when the White Island volcano erupted a year ago, and Australians Marie and Stephanie Browitt, who lost a family in a disaster, accused Royal Caribbean of failing to fulfill its duty to insure travelers to safety by allowing a day trip to White Island, despite warnings that the volcano could erupt.
But last week, the cruise company appealed to a federal court in Australia for a ruling banning families from going further with their U.S. lawsuits.
Royal Caribbean, the world’s largest cruise company, argues that a clause in a ticket contract that regulates travel means courts in the Australian state of New South Wales are the only place where disputes over the disaster can be heard.
On December 9, 2019, an eruption killed 22 people cruising the Royal Caribbean ship Ovation of the Seas, including wife Marie Browitt, Paula and daughter Krystal. Another 25 people were injured.
Reeds and Browitts have filed separate lawsuits in the U.S. against Royal Caribbean seeking damages for the disaster.
In their case filed in the U.S. federal court system, Ivy and Paul Reed, who live in Maryland, claim the eruption caused “severe, life-threatening burns to large parts of their bodies, permanent and disfiguring scars, reduced use of limbs and limbs.” “, As well as causing permanent mental trauma and making work difficult.
Browitts in their lawsuit, filed in the Florida state court system, claim that “Stephanie Browitt was seriously injured, suffering lifelong injuries, and both Marie and Stephanie Browitt suffered severe emotional distress, mental anguish and physical pain, loss enjoyment of life, post-traumatic stress and other mental and / or nervous disorders. “
The lawsuit also includes claims on behalf of the estates of Paul and Krystal Browitt, filed under Florida’s unlawful death laws.
White Island’s volcanic activity increased in the weeks before the trip to level 2, the highest before the eruption, and Browitts claims that during the tour, the guide told Krystal that he was “approaching level 3” – the eruption.
They claim that Royal Caribbean either knew or should have known that the volcano was dangerous, but still sold tickets for a day trip to increase its earnings.
“Selling any tickets to the island was unheard of behavior and nothing less than selling tickets to play Russian roulette,” Browitts claims.
“This conduct was indecently cavalier, beyond the bounds of decency, and so reckless that it must not be tolerated in a civilized society.”
In their lawsuit, Reeds also alleges that Royal Caribbean knew or should have known about the danger of an eruption, but they moved on nonetheless.
They describe the eruption in detail in court records, saying they were “swallowed by a boiling cloud of acid gases, rocks and ashes” and that “Ms. Reed recalls that her group resembled people moving away from the fallen twins of the World Trade Center in New York 11 September 2001, except that people on the White Island were horribly burned that day, in addition to being covered in white ash. “
Royal Caribbean has not filed a defense in any of the U.S. cases, and both were filed earlier this month.
However, in Australian federal court lawsuits against survivors, Royal Carribbean argues that both Reeds and Browitts are bound by terms and conditions that limit any legal action to courts in New South South Korea.
She asked the court to issue orders that prevent families from continuing with their American cases.
Browitts’ Australian lawyer, Peter Gordon of Gordon Legal, told the Guardian Australia that the family “has not been given a contract that talks about where to sue.”
He said Royal Caribbean is defending other cases initiated by victims in Miami, including the case of newlyweds Lauren Barham and Matthew Urey.
“We intend to protect and defend the right of Marie and Stephanie, and Paula and Krystal, to lead this case where injustice has occurred,” Gordon said.
“And that illegal act took place at the headquarters of the Royal Caribbean, where they closed their eyes to all evidence that White Island was ready to erupt.”
Reed’s lawyers declined to comment.
Royal Caribbean did not answer Guardian Australia’s questions about the lawsuits.
“We are thinking about everyone affected by this tragedy, but we are not commenting on the pending investigations,” a spokeswoman said.